Our Blessings

Our Blessings

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Settling in

Resurrection Day! 
(Vivi was yelling, "JESUS!")

We are settling into a routine...I think. Though I imagine the coming weeks we will hopefully continue to feel more settled. For pretty much the entire almost 4 weeks that Angie has been home someone or a few of us have been sick. Kind of a bummer when we've had a pretty healthy winter. We've passed around some kind of flu that seems to turn into a cold. It has included some or all of these symptoms: yucky tummies, major headaches, fever, sore throats, congestion, drippy noses and a bit of a cough. I can't tell you how very ready I am for GOOD health for everyone! The only positive I can come up with is the extra snuggles and mellow days. I AM thankful for warm spring days when we can open up the windows and essential oils that we have been acquiring and experimenting with. I spent some time the past several months attempting to trade out much of our cleaning supplies, hand soap, hair and skin care products, toothpaste and more for more natural, less toxic options. I have made our own lotion before, along with a handful of household cleaning products like bathroom scrub, air freshener and all purpose cleaning spray at a DoTerra class. I plan to try some new home made products again at some point. I'm thinking hand sanitizer and dryer sheets are on the top of the list right now. But, for this busy season I am liking Mrs. Meyers products and a few others. Love the scents and the use of oils and other natural, non-toxic ingredients. We're all taking a good multi-vitamin/mineral/whole food supplement along with a good probiotic.

We're also liking the oils for anxiety and sleep issues. Serenity is our new best friend when Vivi is spiraling out of control. It seriously feels like a miracle oil with her sometimes! We've also used oils for tummy issues and congestion. And we are trying some out for allergies and have some on hand ready to use for those fun monthly issues for our teenager. (Really hoping for some good results with that!) Looking forward to trying out an alternative bug repellent, a headache remedy and a digestion aide in our next order. We used a ton of homeopathic remedies when our boys were little and somehow sort of phased out of that. As the kit we had expired we just never worked very hard to replace too many of the remedies. I'm excited that essential oils are so big now - it's easy to find recommendations and hear multiple success stories. I've never been a fan of OTC meds and running to the doctor for an antibiotic every little thing. So, having some new options to try that are natural and without so many crazy side effects that also work to strengthen and boost our immune system is wonderful. (No I'm not selling them - just impressed with the results!)

Back to the girls...we're also requiring them to drink 3 bottles/big cups of water each day. I imagined that this would be a huge challenge for Angie as she was not used to drinking so much water in Colombia. We started encouraging more while we were there and warned her of even more of an increase when we got home. She has actually done very well with this most days. It helps all of the girls to drink plenty of water - skin, hair, dry lips, digestion and good for the immune system. When the weather allows I encourage the girls to go outside for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Though it is quite warm in Cali, where Angie is from, it's muggy and hazy. Not like our crystal clear blue sky and the bold direct sunshine. And our altitude is higher here - so she feels HOT in the sun and COLD in the shade if there is a breeze. I'm sure she'll eventually adjust to the climate changes.

I'm not sure why. But, adding one kiddo into our family has made it feel more like our family grew by 5 instead of 1! Now when people ask how many kids we have and their ages - I feel like one of "those" big families I used to watch and tried to figure out how they did it all and how they stayed organized. Only...we don't do it all and we're still figuring out the organization part! We began to figure out a good system for school and a routine for our days. A week and a half after the girls started school again - they had spring break so everything was disrupted - but we did have some fun! Now that they are back in school we're trying to get back into that routine. Nightly devotion after dinner out of Jesus Calling for Kids. Two girls take showers after that. And Trevor takes one before bed. That allows enough hot water for the rest of us and a faster getting-ready process for everybody in the morning. Getting back to our Joy Dare - thankfulness journal (Ann Voskamp - if you haven't read any of her stuff I'd highly encourage her book and blog - the perspective has been life changing in my daily life.) Each day to help everybody's attitude by focusing on what we are grateful for.

Back to the routine. Because Vivi still naps most days - I have the girls go to a quiet place to read for an hour or so each afternoon after they get home. When Vivi wakes up she's so excited to see them and has a big need to burn some energy - so I usually shoo them outside to play! They usually help set the table for dinner if they are nearby. They have other chores as well. Daily they keep their bedrooms picked up, beds made, wipe down the bathroom and sweep the bathroom floor (3 girls in one bathroom = lots of hair!) They bring down dirty laundry twice a week and put away their own laundry. They help with vacuuming, dusting and scrubbing the bathroom once a week. That's it for now - it feels like enough as we continue adjusting to one another. So far they are quite eager to help - especially when we are all pitching in as a family - in fact they argue at who gets to vacuum! Please Lord - let that enthusiasm continue for years to come!

We've also given each of the kids a color - so at a glance they can tell which towel, water cup, Kindle, toothbrush, etc is theirs. The water cups also eliminate the need to get several glasses out during the day. We still have to run the dishwasher twice a day - especially if both of the boys are home for a meal or two.

Some days seem to flow very smooth and the moods stay up beat. Other days we deal with quite a bit of drama, language barrier frustration, adjustment issues and jealousy. Add in one precious, sweet, hilarious, defiant, extremely strong-willed toddler and we have some crazy moments! :) We pray continually for wisdom in dealing with our girls.  When the drama pulls us in several directions it can be a challenge for sure and we don't always respond as we probably should. However,  when we tune into Jesus and ask Him to pour through us we see Him working through these hard moments and bringing good out of it. His faithfulness is amazing. We love these girls and our boys so very much, yet to rest in the knowledge that the Lord loves them even more and has good plans for their lives...there is such peace there.

I would say that the toughest moments are generally caused by the language barrier and someone feeling left out or a bit neglected. I think both of these issues will get better with time and with Trevor and I continuing to study our girls, learn their love languages and be intentional about time spent with them one on one - or even just a few at a time. I love those times - we relate differently to one another instead of mom or dad and a bunch of kids. That said - I also love the way the girls look out for one another, plan crafts together, pile up on the couch for a family movie or a read aloud book. Or today - outside pretending to have injuries that required a trip to the hospital (cradled in a towel that they carried) and after a cursory exam and questioning - each patient was given medicine (a panda puff bite of cereal). It was too cute! They have built in playmates despite the four year gap between each sister.

As is very typical with many children who come from hard places with trauma in their past - you can divide their chronological age in half to get their emotional age. It is definitely holding true for our girl. She seems very mature and responsible in some areas and suddenly the next minute she is bouncing and giggling or whining and throwing a fit like a 7 yr old. She doesn't play with Vivi's toys a lot - but on occasion she gets down and plays or looks at board books. The pretending is new and fun to watch - loving that she feels comfortable to go back and enjoy these childhood experiences. And praying she is content to stay there as long as she needs to. It's a wonderful way for her to connect with the girls. And for her to trust us to care for her as if she were a little girl.

Angie is very social and we are also extremely blessed with fun neighbor kids - several of whom come to visit when the girls go out to play. And our circle of friends includes some sweet kids at dance that the girls either have class with together or play before or after their classes. Friday afternoons truly are a big social fest for the girls and I. Along with their wonderful ballet and worship dance classes - we all get time with friends. Angie has been blessed to sit in on several dance classes with her friends from school and new friends she's already made at dance. A HUGE answer to prayer...she loves it! She is already eagerly awaiting September when she gets to dance, too! Our God is SO good!

And our little church and school has been more blessing than I can express. These students and teachers prayed for Angie and were SO eager to welcome her in. There are a handful of friends and one of her teachers who speak some or a lot of spanish. That, too, has been an enormous blessing! The first week and a half we had friends who were willing to go spend the day with Angie at school interpreting for her. Now they are just stopping in now and then as it works for their schedules and we have her scheduled for an hour of English tutoring once a week. Angie continues to work through some English as a second language curriculum while she is at school as well as some math and she listens in during history and bible. She has a spanish bible that she uses to look up the verses they are discussing. She is understanding more and more english every week, but still struggling a bit with attempting to speak it. I think this age is especially challenging due to those insecurities that are there no matter what - add in trying to speak new words with sounds your tongue isn't used to and it's been interesting. She's getting a bit more brave each week, but it's been slow going. And like I mentioned before I think we've enabled her a bit by figuring out the words in Spanish when we are trying to communicate something. So we're gaining a bit more spanish and inhibiting her english. It truly is amazing at how much of our day is spent trying to communicate. Sometimes a half an hour passes and we just get one or two things communicated between charades, limited language, typing into google translate (which is definitely NOT always reliable) and multiple interruptions from other children. Most days rocking Vivi to sleep for nap or bed is such a welcome relief! Just the peace and quiet and a time to pray and reflect - and yes...sometimes mindlessly surf fb and read blogs. :)

We have had some very exciting moments this past week as Angie has been sharing verses from her bible with me that she finds very meaningful! We definitely think she had at least an introduction to God's word and His character in Colombia - maybe at church and with her foster mom. So thankful for the seeds that were planted! She enjoys reading scripture and both of our dear friend/interpreters have talked with her about the Lord. I think she is processing all of that. We are very eager for Kelly to come over for dinner tomorrow to visit with us and Angie and help interpret as we all try to answer any questions she has.

We know there is much hurt in Angie's past and we know that the adjustments and transitions can be so difficult some days. But...we also know that Jesus will give her absolutely everything she needs through His Spirit, His Word and even through us as well as teachers and friends. We are beyond excited to see what He's going to do in her life and in the lives of the rest of our kiddos, as well!

Please join us in praying for her heart to be drawn to Him and a relationship started that sweeps her off of her feet, brings healing and joy beyond what she thought possible. And we hope and pray that each one of our girls will be a voice for orphans and others who are lost, forgotten and vulnerable. What a powerful testimony they each have and what a Savior who loves them so and could love others through them.

Playing at the park. 

Not much snow - but enough to go play in and build a small snowman!

Birthday party for my cousin's little boy at Chick-fil-A.  

His Little Feet 5K! 

A fun day when Trevor's brother and his family to visit. The cousins had a BLAST playing and Angie was able to visit in Spanish with Aunt Rocio. 

On our way to a party with friends from school.

The girls pouring over God's word.

Ummm...could she be any cuter? 

Such sweet moments with these girls.

Finally warm enough that the girls begged to clean off the table and put the cushions back on the chairs so they could eat outside! Yay spring!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two weeks already?!

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27

We have all been home for two weeks already. Wow! Time has passed by in strange ways these past few months. Both Trevor and I continue to confirm with one another what day it is and even what month we are in. It is so strange to think that it was 2 months ago when we were getting ready to leave for Colombia...and now we are all home - together.  I have meant to blog pretty much each day since I left Colombia and well...it's been busy around here! Doing the single mom thing for a month and then welcoming Trevor and Angie home...and within an hour from getting home from the airport Loe's fever set in and that started our week and a half of sickness. We passed around a cold and another virus complete with fever, headache and stomachache. No. Fun.

But...it is warm and beautiful out. We are all pretty much well (except Chase who now has the cold). We have settled into a new routine. And we have seen God's faithfulness over and over again. I have always so appreciated blog posts from others who are experiencing similar joys and challenges in their lives. It's encouraging to know I'm not alone. I gain wisdom. I see God's hand in their lives. And I learn how better to be praying and supporting them. So...I am answering so many who have asked how we are doing...really. And how they can be praying.

Now that the sickness is past and I'm feeling pretty good - I feel quite a bit more optimistic. A few days ago...not so much. It's not that I doubted God's plans for us - but I doubted I was going to be very good at this whole "mothering 4 girls - each with unique challenges".  It's amazing how lack of sleep combined with feeling yucky AND taking care of people feeling yucky AND trying to help each person adjust to a new family member and sharing mom and dad AND helping the new family member settle in with a huge language barrier can make one feel a tad overwhelmed. Some of our struggles have been spiritual in nature...I am not one to look for the devil under every bush. I think we walk through life here with plenty of challenges because we live in a fallen world and we have a mighty Father who has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He's using the hard stuff in our life - on a daily basis - revealing His character, drawing us closer, shaping us. But...I also know that the enemy is alive and real and seeks to divide, destroy and discourage families. I'm pretty sure he is not a fan of adoption - since it brings the lost and vulnerable into families who protect and fight for them. So, it's a safe bet that we are a target right now - heck we have felt that for the past 10 years. Whenever anyone tells me they are considering or starting an adoption I warn them of spiritual attack. Not to scare them off - but so they can be prepared to arm themselves and stand on the promises of God. I haven't met a family yet who didn't have hard stories to tell from their adoption process and/or after they brought their child home. Not only is the enemy on the prowl to destroy, but we are bringing a child into our family that doesn't know Jesus and comes with a hard history. Angie's story is hers to tell some day if she wants to - but suffice to say that we have plenty to work through. People see her and her amazing smile and assume all is going smooth and perfectly for us. Not perfect - that is for sure! It hasn't been horrible - just very challenging at times. And the challenges aren't all her - we are each feeling the change and the attack in different ways.

And though we did attempt to pray, plan and prepare our kids as much as possible for this change - when the rubber hits the road and mom and dad are spending hours dealing with issues and or praying about stuff - they are gonna feel it.  Of course the little ones feel it - and it can be more difficult to explain to them. It is also interesting how walking through some of this stuff brings up questions or issues our other girls are experiencing. That has happened during Vivi's adoption and Angie's. Among some heavier stuff we are also walking through the challenges of diet changes, climate differences, hair and skin care, school adjustments, family rules and the language barrier. We knew that one would be one of the hardest challenges and not a quick fix. Trevor and I have spent the past few months either being immersed in Spanish or focused on learning it to communicate with Angie.  But...as we look up phrases and words and practice each day - we have learned some and she hasn't been learning quite as much English. She's listening all of the time and she does pick up on parts of some conversations - but we haven't been encouraging her to speak the words in English as much with so much more on our mind. This past week we have been more diligent in that area and she's making slow progress.

These are some challenges we've experienced (along with some various challenges in Colombia). But...have we witnessed God's amazing faithfulness in our lives? YES! He has supplied grace upon grace. He gave energy when there should be none. He has given us wisdom beyond our experience. (22 years of parenting sons + 10 years of parenting adopted girls does not = TEENAGE GIRL experience! Ha ha!)  He has provided amazing support at our little school and through sweet friends from church. A meal here, an encouraging note there. And prayer - people faithfully lifting us up in prayer - that is HUGE as we battle the spiritual warfare and walk this path.

And there have been many daily joys. Sweet smiles and giggles. Feelings of victory as either Angie or one of us understands what the other person is trying to communicate. New friendships being made. Listening to each of our girls praise God for Angie finally being home. Matching clothes (that the girls plan out on their own). Savoring ice cream together. Enjoying warm spring days visiting different parks. Watching Angie tear up when Aslan dies in Narnia (knowing that this will help communicate what Jesus did for her!) Seeing God's purposes revealed throughout our wait and our time in Colombia. Enjoying one-on-one time with each of the girls during little dates. And probably many more that I am not thinking of at the moment. Truly God has proven Himself faithful in amazing ways through out the past 18 months we KNEW that He would continue after Angie came home. We are in awe of His power and love for us and our family. In so many ways this adoption has been a walk of faith and obedience - yet as is typical for Jesus - He has brought about pure joy as we follow Him and trust Him.

Here are some pics from the airport (thanks Jeni!) and a few from the past few weeks at home. 

The welcoming committee!

FINALLY...she's HERE!!!!!

So thankful! 

These two are blurry - but I still love them. They capture their sweet smiles and excitement to finally be together! Loe has been counting this down for 18 months and even two weeks in - she still wakes up with a spring in her step and a smile on her face because her big sis is home!

 A few friends and one of our sweet teachers. 

Angie was able to meet her teachers via Skype a few weeks previous to her homecoming. They all came to greet her at the airport - have I mentioned how blessed we are?!

This girl MISSED her daddy! So happy she was to have him home!

Thank you to all who were able to make it to the airport! What a FUN night celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness in bringing our daughter home! 

When we got home late that night - everyone was so tired, but still pumped up on adrenaline. Angie was thrilled to see her new bedroom in person. (She had seen pictures and asked us to see it during a few FaceTime conversations. She was surprised to find several gifts from Miss Betsy waiting in her bedroom including a new blanket, some jewelry, nail polish and a stuffed animal. SO sweet!

Once everybody finally settled down - they begged Daddy to read a bedtime story. He chose our newest Skippy Jon Jones book - one of our favorite book characters.

After I finished tucking Loe & Ren into bed I walked back down the hall to find this. And then I proceeded to melt into a giant puddle. 

One of our lazy mornings. We took 3 days off of school so we could have a long 5 day weekend as a family. Trevor had to work quite a bit - but we relished being home together without a schedule. SO NICE. No...I didn't pose them. They were literally hanging out on the benches while I emptied the dishwasher. I rarely have to pose these kiddos - other than sometimes plopping Vivi down in the midst of them.

Many rounds of Uno and Pretty, Pretty Princess during those first few days home. Welcome to life with four daughters - Trevor.

Loe walked by with her book and Angie immediately scooted over and patted the chair for Loe to join her to sit next to her. LOVING that Angie is enjoying her Spanish Narnia books! 

The long-awaited first day of school for Angie! I think Loe was as excited as Angie! The class welcomed her so warmly - she has been there just one week now and she has already developed some great friendships and continues to look forward to going every day. I love that they have this opportunity and that the days aren't too long - so I get to have them home all afternoon. 

We have had many, many salsa lessons since she came home. Loe has some steps mastered already. She joked that she might accidentally throw some salsa steps into her worship dance routine! Here they are showing their moves to Auntie Kelly and MariaTeresita - two of our dear friends who came over to help us translate some things for Angie. When Angie realized it was MariaTeresita's birthday the following day - she immediately asked me if we could have her over to celebrate! LOVE her heart!

Hanging out at the park with these precious friends/neighbors! The Hettinger family has been such an amazing support to our family through out her entire adoption! So fun to see the kids all together!

Daddy and his girls...minus Vivi who was in no mood to sit still at that moment. :)

Love this pic of Trev and his oldest daughter along with Loe - photobombing it in the background. It really is sweet to see the relationship that has developed between Trevor and Angie. We are so thankful for their time together in Colombia - God knew that was exactly what they needed!

My beauties! Can not imagine my life without each one in it!

Ever since they finished our new neighborhood park - the girls have commented on how perfect these tree stumps are since there are four of them and there are four sisters in our family now! <3

Playing with some Silly Soap - great sensory activity for everybody.

I had intended for these to be their Easter dresses - but they begged to wear them already - so I gave in. I asked them to pop outside on this breezy morning for a quick picture before church and they immediately lined up here - love them all so very much. Sometimes still can't believe God has given us FOUR beautiful daughters! We are so blessed!

The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

She's coming home!

Two years ago God planted a seed in our hearts...one that would grow and blossom into being open to the idea of adopting an older child. 

One day 18 months ago, after an evening talking about God's change in plans for us...Trevor told me to go open up his laptop. There as the screen came to life was this face smiling back at me. She had just popped up on our agency's waiting child list. We spent some time praying and quickly felt God calling us to turn in our letter of intent to adopt Angie. 

15 months ago we met Angie for the first time face to face. (We did have one Skype conversation to meet her.) We had already began her adoption process and then found out that she would be eligible for our agency's hosting

5 weeks ago Trevor and I met her again...this time as our daughter and not (in her eyes) as her host family.  She has grown up so much! Such a batch of mixed feelings to put our eyes upon our new daughter - finally! To feel such joy well up in our hearts to have in in our arms. Yet...to see how much she has grown up without us - even just in the past year is sad. It is a bittersweet experience to adopt a teenager - we get a new daughter that will always be a part of our family. She receives a family not only to help her navigate her way into adulthood, but also beyond. Yet - to look back and know we missed so much and she, like any other child available for adoption as a teenager has such pain and loss in her history. Thankful that our Jesus offers healing and new life!

3 weeks ago I left to come back home and care for our little girls. I left part of my heart behind in Colombia. We are missing them both so much! But...in 2 short days our waiting will come to an end! We have made it through each and every step in the Colombian adoption process! Tomorrow they will get her visa and Thursday morning they will fly home! Praise God!!!

We are all rejoicing in this wonderful news! It was looking like we might have another delay, but God opened that door for us and things are moving forward once again. 

For anyone who would like to join us in welcoming Angie to the US and into her forever family...we will be at DIA Thursday evening when their flight gets in at 8:20. Let me know if you plan to join us! 

We can't tell you thank you enough for all of the prayer and support as we have gone through this process. God has shown His amazing faithfulness time and again during the past 2 years. My faith has grown by leaps and bounds! He is SO good! 

I still have some photos to blog from their time in Colombia that I will try to get up on the blog soon. And we will continue to post updates in the coming weeks and months about how things are going...ways you can pray for us. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An orphan no longer!

Yesterday we received the long-awaited news. We have our Sentencia! Angie Astrid Collins is officially our daughter! She is an orphan no longer and our family has been given the gift of a new daughter and sister. 

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. 
Matthew 18:5

We feel extremely grateful to finally be at this stage. We began her adoption process about 18 months ago. It has taken quite a bit longer than we expected, but we are thrilled to be at this point. She was worth every bit of paperwork, and every moment of waiting. They are now waiting to get her birth certificate - should have them by 4 this afternoon. He is booking a flight that will take them from Cali to Bogota tonight.  Tomorrow they will begin the process for getting her Visa. The best guess for this part of the process is about 4 business days. So - we are thinking they might be headed home on Wednesday next week - possibly a few days later. They are quite ready to go and have already packed! This was their "we are so excited to go" selfie they took earlier! :) Love and miss them so much!

Truly y'all, God has been so very faithful during this process. But, all of us here and there are walking with a little pep in our step after this wonderful news! God's continual reminder of His hand upon us, this process and even the timing is good as we soon move foreword into the adjusting into our family phase. We honestly don't know how that will go, but we have been covering this in prayer for 18 months and will continue to trust the Lord. Some kids settle right in, but for most it takes time...a lot of time and a lot of adjusting. Learning the language. Strange diet changes. New routine. Very different school. And obviously adjusting to life in her new forever family with little sisters and older brothers. But, also with a mom and a dad. It will be a big change from her life with her foster mom and siblings. Attaching with a teenager will look very different. We imagine God will work on us as much as Angie during this process - just as He has (and continues to do!) when each of our other children were welcomed into our family.

Please keep holding us up in prayer. We hope there will be no delays in Bogota. We have all remained pretty healthy and we would love to stay that way! Extra endurance and energy for Trevor and Angie. They had some rough nights for sleep with lots of traffic and stuff going on around their apartment. I could use a little extra energy as well (last night Vivi decided to have a not-so-common night of being awake for hours!) And just keeping up with the kids, house and all of that good stuff. I've been very blessed this week with some visits with friends and looking forward to some more! The girls are staying busy with school and on the warm days they spend hours outside playing! We have balanced it well with a few extra outings - but plenty of mellow routine, snuggles, games, books and a few movies.

The girls are preparing for a His Little Feet trip next weekend. They hope to get to see Angie before they leave Thursday morning...but we are trusting God's timing with that. I could see some benefits to Angie have a few days to settle in and rest up a bit before her very enthusiastic sisters "welcome" her home and they start school! (Which Angie is begging to do right away! Though we might take a few days to be a family after the girls return from their trip the following Monday evening.) Pray for God to continue to use the choir in mighty ways! The girls always get excited to go see their choir buddies and it has always been powerful to be used by the Lord in this way, yet this time we chatted about how God might use their songs to minister to others and nudge someone forward who was on the fence about caring for orphans, sponsoring or even adopting a precious teenager like Angie. I think it's hitting home even more for them how powerful this ministry is.

Thank you so much to all who have prayed and rejoiced with us during our journey! We welcome you to keep following along - lifting us up in prayer as God brings us to your mind. Please always feel free to let us know how we can be praying for you! We are so encouraged to see God working in your lives in so many ways! Don't you LOVE the way the body of Christ works together and glorifies our amazing Father in heaven! He is SO good to us!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Zoologica de Cali

Trevor and Angie spent an hour at the Cali Zoo...literally! He imagined a good 2-3 hours, especially by letting her use the camera. But...she literally walked to an exhibit - snapped a picture or two and quickly walked to the next one! But...at least she was willing to go! I miss these faces!

I didn't get any photo descriptions - so I'll just let the animals speak for themselves! I did read that the zoo has undergone major improvements over the past several years and is now one of the better zoos in South America. Though I DO love animals, I'm not a huge fan of zoos. I kinda hate seeing those beautiful animals cooped up - even if it's a "spacious habitat." But, it is an amazing experience for kids to see animals that they probably would never see otherwise.  

What a cutie pie! She is really sweet with younger children. 

I am sure this last one was for my benefit. EWWW... I absolutely hate spiders. They are evil and creepy. I always say they must have come after the fall.